The twin-stick zombie shooter is fast becoming a gaming cliché, almost as prevalent as military-themed first-person shooters and JRPG's with androgynous heroes. Maybe it's the familiarity of the analog stick control method. Maybe it's the natural fit for zombies in a game where you face off against hordes of enemies. No matter what the case, there are literally dozens—if you include the Xbox Indie scene—of dual-stick twitching zombie blasting titles. Some games, like the bleak and bombastic Dead Nation, elevate the subgenre to an art form where others, like last year's Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone, are joyless slogs through the end of days.
Now, we've got another one for the fire: the cartoony All Zombies Must Die!, the sequel to Burn Zombie Burn! (I guess developer DoubleSix has a thing for exclamation points) that proves that maybe it's time for this style of game to be sent back to the grave permanently.
On the surface, AZMD! Is virtually the same as any one of the games that came before it: you run and gun your way through seemingly endless hordes of slavering ghouls, picking up ammo as you go. The difference, at least in theory, stems from the lite RPG elements, which add missions for each arena as well as stats-boosting experience points to level your character.
The problem is, virtually all of these "missions" you have to complete involve shooting zombies. The same activity that the entire game is comprised of. When you're promising a feature to differentiate yourself in a very crowded genre, you really need to make sure that it truly is different, and not just a smokescreen.
Besides the RPG elements, the only other thing that makes AZMD! unique is its irreverent style. The graphics are colorful and cartoony, and the writing is lighthearted and breezy, which is certainly a big departure from the traditionally bleak tone that zombie games take. Unfortunately, this has the expected effect of making the game completely without any sense of fear or horror. While this sort of tone works for certain games, like the puzzle-oriented Plants vs. Zombies, it's terrible for a run-and-gun survival title.
All Zombies Must Die! is available now on Xbox Live and Playstation Network.